It took 24 games, but the SJSU women's basketball team finally beat Louisiana Tech 60-58 on Saturday night in the Spartans' final home game of the season.
The first game between the two teams goes back to Jan. 10, 2002, when the Lady Techsters beat the Spartans 79-49 in San Jose.
“We have a lot of respect for Louisiana Tech and their storied program and they always play us tough,” head coach Tim La Kose said.
Saturday's game came down to the final seconds.
Lady Techster forward Whitney Frazier scored on a layup and added a free throw with 33 seconds remaining after a Spartan turnover, making it a one-point lead for the Spartans.
After another turnover by the Spartans with 15 seconds left, sophomore guard Ta'Rea Cunnigan fouled Lady Techster guard Jelena Vucinic, putting her on the line with a chance to take the lead.
Vucinic missed both free throws
— Cunnigan grabbed the rebound and was fouled immediately with 10 seconds left in the game.
Cunnigan missed the first free throw, but made the second, giving the Lady Techsters a chance to win the game with a three pointer.
They opted for the tie and Frazier missed a last second shot from a couple of steps inside the corner arc.
This game will be the last time these two teams will face each other as conference opponents because of Louisiana Tech's move to Conference USA on July 1.
The Spartans have won the two games in their final homestand of the season and will head to Texas for their last two games of the season before the Western Athletic Conference tournament.
“It gave us momentum and hopefully we'll carry that over on the road,” freshman forward Riana Byrd said.
More Spartan history was made with Cunnigan setting the record for free throws in a season by sinking 160 on the season so far.
Only six players dressed for the Spartans, compared to the Lady Techsters' ten, but the small bench didn't seem to bother the players.
When asked if fatigue was a factor, Byrd and guard Chereese Thomas
both answered with a resounding “No.”
The Lady Techsters only turned the ball over nine times and allowed zero fast-break points, which was a result of the Spartans focusing on rebounding and preventing close shots around the basket.
“We knew that they are a team that likes to score inside, so we didn't pressure as much as we usually do because we really wanted to protect the paint,” La Kose said. “Most of their baskets came inside and we wanted to try to take their strength away.”
The Spartans outscored the Lady Techsters in the paint in the first half 16-14 because of Byrd, who scored 14 of the team's 26 points.
Cunnigan and Thomas were the only other Spartans to score in the first half with 10 points and two points, respectively.
Byrd accumulated a double-double in the first half with 11 rebounds in 18 minutes.
“We knew we needed to rebound and we knew they scored a majority of their points in the paint, so we wanted to keep them out of the paint and rebound and that would have got the win. And it did,”
Byrd fell into foul trouble in the second half and only logged eight minutes, allowing the Lady Techsters to outscore the Spartans in the paint 18-12.
The Spartans still out-rebounded the Lady Techsters with the help of Thomas, who grabbed ten and also recorded a double-double.
“We count on her to handle the ball, she's our assist leader," La Kose said. "She plays great on-ball defense, (she) runs our offense and any rebounds she gets is a bonus.”
Thomas, who averages four rebounds a game, said she's just doing what needs to be done to win.
“Coach really emphasized rebounding, so as a team with only six (players), that was our main focus and I think we accomplished that well,”
Saturday's results have created a four-way tie for fourth place in the WAC standings between SJSU, Louisiana Tech, the University of Denver and the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Each team has two games left before the conference tournament.
The next game for the Spartans is on the road Thursday against the University of Texas-San Antonio at 7 p.m.